Review: Colm Mac Con Iomaire at The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney

Colm Mac Con Iomaire
Image Courtesy of Colm Mac Con Iomaire

Colm Mac Con Iomaire
26th January 2011, The Famous Spiegeltent (Sydney Festival)

When sifting through the monumental number of quality artists this year’s Sydney Festival trying to work out how many shows my budget would stretch to I almost passed on Colm Mac Con Iomaire. I didn’t know the name. I didn’t read his blurb or check out his web site. Then a friend pointed out that Colm Mac Con Iomaire was the fiddle player for both The Frames and The Swell Season, so I checked out his solo work on YouTube and was instantly hooked.

It’s easy to box Irish music into the Riverdance/diddle-i-die stereotype and what is often forgotten is the soulful beauty of the genre’s slower airs and ballads. Colm Mac Con Iomaire is not a strict traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination (most of what he played on Wednesday were originals), but his music definitely stems from Irish trad.

Colm Mac Con Iomaire began his set solo, deftly using his violin and a looping pedal to fill the Spiegeltent with hauntingly beautiful music. Initially hampered by what sounded like Mondo Rock (or a Mondo Rock cover band) playing the Australia Day concert in Hyde Park reverberating through the walls, Colm Mac Con Iomaire eventually found his groove and the audience were enamored.

Gradually Colm Mac Con Iomaire brought his band The Hare’s Corner out on stage and as he did so his music became more and more traditional. The first few tracks were more classical in nature, but as he moved through the set they tended more towards airs and jigs (both traditional and written by Colm Mac Con Iomaire). The band added a pleasant depth to the music (despite the trumpeter bowing out of the night due to a bout of appendicitis) but to be honest I would have been just as happy to watch Colm Mac Con Iomaire all alone on stage.

One of the things that impressed me most about the performance was Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s between-song banter. He deftly explains the story behind each track, giving the audience a clear visual image for the instrumentals and an added layer of depth for the songs. Colm Mac Con Iomaire is naturally humble and self deprecating in his approach to the audience and I was impressed with the fact that almost all of his music had both a Gaelic and an English title.

Overall an absolutely magical performance. The Famous Spiegeltent is a wonderful venue and perfect for this kind of intimate performance. Highlights of the night included “The Red Road”, “Emer’s Dream” and his rendition of the Scottish lullaby “Hush, Hush” although every single tune was a gem. Colm Mac Con Iomaire is simply amazing.


  1. Philo said,

    January 30, 2011 at 16:50

    pedal. looping pedal

    nice review – I went Thurs night. Despite absence of trumpeter, it was truly enjoyable

    • Evan Hughes said,

      January 30, 2011 at 17:39

      Thanks for noticing the spelling mistake Philo! Consider it fixed.

  2. May 6, 2011 at 08:42

    […] huge fans of Frames and Swell Season fiddle player Colm Mac Con Iomaire especially after seeing his solo show at this year’s Sydney Festival. So when we heard he had contributed to the latest album from […]

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